Thursday, September 22, 2016

SIUC Attendance Decline

I have said for years, and will still keep saying, that SIUC's problem is that the university is too large for the area to support it. Consider that the entire 13 county area normally referred to as Southern Illinois totals just over 265,000 in population, while the university peaked at about 24,000 back about 1990. Consider that Southeast Missouri State University, which pulls from the equally sparsely populated Bootheel region only has about 12,000 students currently, but has trended upwards over the past 2 decades, compared with SIUC which has slowly trended down over the same time period.

I give the credit for the disparate size of SIUC to the 22 year tenure of Delyte Morris and his single minded focus on growing the university into a nationally recognized institution. He did such a good job that the institution could coast on what he had built, despite the lack of focus that he provided (John Guyon wanted SIUC to become a graduate focused research institution in the 1990s while Walter Wendler shifted the strategy to "Southern at 150" during his tenure). for the next 20 years until inertia finally took over and is slowly bringing back SIUC's size to something more in line with the region it serves.

Can this trend be reversed? Of course. Morris was able to do just that. Unfortunately, in today's academia, Delyte Morrises are few and far between

3 comments:

  1. Interesting theory but i don't think this is true.

    This article from the Southern provides some good data:

    http://thesouthern.com/news/local/siu-shifting-its-focus-farther-south/article_8b219a8b-84bb-51d2-93a2-93d6aa956bb2.html

    The simple fact is that SIU has been terrible at marketing itself. A party school image may not be what SIU wanted but it worked - really well. With no party school image SIU now has ZERO image. Any brand on the planet will tell you that there is no such thing as bad publicity. A party school image is an infinitely better marketing plan that having no image at all. That party school image was not replaced with anything so that vacuum is replaced with stories of crime, etc.

    Additionally while I thinks it a good point that the Southern Illinois region is relatively small, SIU isnt a Southern Illinois school. It likes to think of itself as a national research university (which it is!) and therefore should draw from everywhere - not just Southern Illinois. In particular its a public university in the state of Illinois - so it should draw from everywhere in the state. This clearly includes Chicago. I went to SIU in the late 90's and nearly every one of my friends was from the Chicago area. I think this is why some St Louis area restaurants (IMO's comes to mind) don't do well here. Its a weird demographic unless you know the area. Carbondale is much more Chicago and northern Illinois focused than the demographics probably show. (which is also why i think its weird theres no White Castle).

    Anyway, interesting theory. I always enjoy your thoughts but thought i would add my own on this one :)

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  2. I appreciate your comments. Yes, we do have a lot of students from Chicago. SIUC for a number of years during the late 1990s through early 2000s recruited much more from outside the area than from schools here in Southern Illinois. I remember talking with one mother whose daughter was getting ready to select a college. The SIUC folder in the guidance counselor's office had one page in it, while other colleges had multiple handouts and flyers.

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